Communities are the next games play for Palringo

IMG_20140919_143357A sunny day in Sweden is the type of experience that makes the visitor feel cleansed, vibrant and healthy… even after a pint of Guinness and a pie at a tourist pub in Gothenburg.

People-spotting here is so modern that it wouldn’t be that weird to see a couple of pregnant men walking around talking to mothers, driverless cars parking themselves or air-bicycles being softly pedalled by children on the way back from school.

What would be weird, however, is a man without a checked shirt or beard. If London’s Shoreditch has beards, then Sweden’s Gothenburg owns beards. Bearded Londoners look like Beau Brummell, bearded Swedes look like Grizzly Adams.

This is Sweden’s second biggest city and it’s quietly cool. Surrounded by an archipelago of islands, defined by cafe culture and hipster bars, Gothenburg understandably attracts creative people and companies, those who know that small cities like this are the future of developed humanity, where businesses as well as families will prosper.

One such company based in the centre of the city used to be called Free Lunch Design and is now part of The Palringo Group, a messaging app that focuses on group-forming, games, chat and communities. The company now has more than 28 million global users and more than 350,000 special interest groups.

Magnus Alm was the CEO of Free Lunch Design, but now heads marketing for Palringo and when I enter his office, I am asked to take off my shoes, my Birkenstocks fitting in rather neatly with the array of discarded footwear by the door. Immediately, it’s clear this is a games company. Avatars of staff members adorn the walls, and Alm himself is wearing a red fez; it’s going to be an interesting couple of hours.

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Free Lunch Design were a very successful company before the acquisition by Palringo in the Spring of 2014. The company had already worked with mega brands Disney, Paramount and Marvel, as well as having almost a million Likes on Facebook. To this day, the company is still one of Sweden’s biggest Facebook developers.

But that is past, now Alm is looking forward to a interesting future with Palringo and creating the new force in gaming, that of community. He has a good platform to work with. Palringo has more than 28 million users, of which there are 350,000 interest groups, some of which have two thousand members.

The idea is to meld chat-based applications with games, be they downloaded and fitted with a Palringo button to join these communities or by adding a games-based layer to the messaging technology itself.

“Game publishers can reap benefits by becoming platform owners such as messaging apps, social networks and communities…or platform owners becoming game publishers. Loyal users being presented by relevant and appealing content within an environment they feel comfortable can be a method to strike gold in the app stores,” says Alm.

As I stroll around (bare-footed) around Alm’s offices, the feeling is one of placidity and calm, games being organically created in a quiet and intelligent atmosphere. Here, we are a universe away from other entertainment companies where business is conducted in a frenetic fashion.

Palringo also seem to be hiring wisely and ramping up its marketing budget to bring community managers from outside the games and mobile industry, underscoring how important the curation of Palringo’s burgeoning communities is to the company.

As I bid farewell to the Palringo guys and put back on my shoes, there is a sense that while this company may not be manically shouting above their weight and promising the world, there is a calm, yes, Swedish, assurance here that suggests the future… although probably not the imagined pregnant fathers I mentioned earlier.

The Rwandan Tech Incubator’s Top 10 startups

rwandaRwandan tech incubator think has announced their top 10 finalists for the initial intake of the newest incubator in Africa. The top 10 companies were selected from more than 150 applications from across 20 countries, of which 14 were from Africa.

These companies are some of the best new innovators providing digital and technology solutions that have the potential to scale across Africa.

These companies were chosen after submitting an application to think, and those applications were reviewed by the four-member Selection Committee, representing Tigo Rwanda, African Entrepreneur Collective, Millicom Digital Ventures, and leading Rwandan technology experts and entrepreneurs. Continue reading

Great Fridays shores up board with ex-Pearson hire

elephant indoorInnovative product and service design company Great Fridays has appointed Genevieve Shore to its influential advisory board with immediate effect.

Great Fridays advisory board is made up of an illustrious and eclectic mix of experienced Design and Business Leaders including Peter Gabriel (musician, technologist, inventor), Nancy Dickenson (independent design strategy consultant and ex-VP Design at eBay, PayPal, Apple), Peter Skillman from HERE and Josh Ulm (VP of Design at Adobe). Continue reading

The end of maps as Sat Nav users lose brains

sat_navThe scourge of Sat Nav appears to have rendered drivers clueless and dependent on the technology to arrive at their destination.

According to research by GPS technology specialists Garmin, almost 40% of drivers don’t know how to navigate using a traditional map and a further 16% admit that they are so reliant on a Sat Nav that they use it for regular journeys.

As a driver who loves getting lost and likes to ask for directions because it means I meet PEOPLE in unusual situations and do not reply on a mobile ivory tower to insulate myself from real life, this comes as no surprise.

One thing that remains the same, however. Be it digital or analogue, the report says that arguing over directions remains one of driving’s biggest hazards, with a third of respondents saying that it creates arguments with their partners.

The press release tries to put a spin on this depressing result… ‘Rather than seeing technology as consuming traditional skills like map reading, it should be celebrated for delivering speed, accuracy and safety’.

This is not something I’ve ever seen when Sat Nav drivers pull away, then stop instantly while they fiddle with its controls. It is the devil’s work and is sucking away our brains. Maps are like books, they keep us intelligent, not driverless Google car guinea pigs.

US company acquires African startup Saya

Robert-LampteyOne of the smartest people I’ve met as I’ve built up my African network over the past two years is the charismatic and smart Robert Lamptey.

As CEO and founder of Ghana-based mobile messaging company Saya Mobile, Robert has been an inspiration for many Ghanaians, and Africans for that matter. He is a better coder than anybody who has attempted MIT’s coding challenges and he has built up an excellent company in the last three years.

So it is of great pleasure to announce (somewhat belatedly, been on holiday), Saya’s acquisition by New Jersey company Kirusa, which has acquired the technology, IP and workforce of Saya that will now be working on Kirusa’s mobile applications. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Continue reading